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How to Fight Coffee Stains on Your Teeth

Anybody drinking all the coffee during quarantine?  With lightened schedules and a slower pace, many of us are enjoying our morning joe a little more than normal.  Maybe you are drinking it over a longer period of time.  Maybe you’re drinking a little more than you used to drink.  If so, you might notice that your smile is looking a little dingy.  Thankfully, with all of our social interaction being virtual nowadays, you might be able to fix that with a filter.

But let’s think ahead to when you will see people in person again.  You don’t want their first thought to be, “Wow! She did not use all that free time to whiten her teeth…..”

How Coffee Stains Happen

Coffee stains fall into the category of extrinsic (or external) teeth staining.  This means that dark pigments from the coffee accumulate on the surface of the enamel over time.  There are several factors that influence staining potential.  By addressing these factors, as you’ll see in the next section, you can prevent many stains.

Factors that Affect Teeth Staining

Surface texture is an important factor in extrinsic staining.  Rough, ridged, or chipped enamel will collect more stains than glossy, smooth enamel.

Stains also love to collect at the edge of anything.  This includes the edge of fillings or crowns, and even the edge of enamel (which should be just below the gums but is commonly visible when there is gum recession).  Stains will not collect on the porcelain of dental work like veneers and crowns, but they will collect at the edge of the dental work.  This is because porcelain is a highly glazed glass and resists stains with its glossy, shiny surface texture.

Saliva has potent stain fighting power because it has the pH and the minerals necessary to harden and strengthen enamel.  If your mouth is dry, you will be more likely to build up stains on your teeth.

The pH of your mouth is important, and coffee is acidic.  Acids weaken the outer layer of enamel through a process called demineralization.  This softening and weakening does make the enamel more likely to collect stains.  A dry mouth is typically acidic in pH, and those affected by GERD or severe acid reflux are more prone to acidic mouths.  This also means they are more likely to collect stains.

Going right along with the saliva and pH, the strength and hardness of tooth enamel is a factor in staining.  Enamel that is very thin or damaged by erosion will stain more readily than thick, healthy enamel.

Ways to Resist Coffee Stains

In order to resist coffee stains, it is important to consider the factors listed in the previous section.  Most of these topics could be an entire blog in their own right, but for this blog’s purposes, we will stick to the basics and just give you tips to improve your teeth staining resistance.

Surface Texture

You have little control over the surface texture of your enamel.  Some people simply have rougher teeth, which makes them more likely to stain.  If you have visibly rough or ridged teeth, you’ll need a dentist’s help to improve the texture.

If you just need to smooth and polish your natural enamel, you can do so with an uptick in your oral hygiene regimen.  By using an electric toothbrush with whitening toothpaste, you can produce a glossier surface texture on your enamel.  Whitening toothpastes have tiny abrasive particles that effectively sand the outer surface of teeth.  This smooth surface texture is more resistant to stains.

When considering surface texture, you can’t forget about plaque and tartar buildup.  Plaque (the soft stuff) and tartar (the hard stuff) are both bumpy and sticky.  They are much more likely to collect dark pigments than enamel.  You can address this by sticking to a consistent schedule of professional teeth cleanings with our awesome hygienists Phyllis and Nancy.  They will leave your teeth feeling as glossy and shiny as possible!

Edges of Dental Work

This is another factor over which you do not have much control.  You can, however, bring it to your dentist’s attention for evaluation.  Depending on the dental material, some edges can be smoothed and polished to become more stain resistant.

It is important to recognize areas that collect stain because if they collect stain, you can guarantee that they are also collecting bacteria.  And if they are collecting bacteria, they are at risk for a cavity in this area.

Saliva

In order to resist stains, you need to have healthy saliva.  That means it must be healthy in both quality and quantity.  You can support good saliva health by staying well hydrated (your body can’t make saliva if you are dehydrated…), eating a healthy balanced diet, and avoiding medications that cause dry mouth.

If you already take medications that have dry mouth as a side effect, talk to your medical doctor about adjusting your dosage.  A lowered dosage typically lowers the side effects.

After drinking your coffee, you can stimulate great saliva flow by chewing some sugar free gum.  (This also helps with the coffee breath….)

pH

It is important to protect your teeth from acids.  Patients with GERD and acid reflux should seek medical attention for these conditions.  Everyone should avoid drinking acidic drinks, like sodas, sports drinks and fruit juices, for prolonged periods of time.

Coffee, being acidic, also needs to be closely monitored.  If you like to sip on your coffee throughout the day, make sure you are also sipping on plain water throughout the day to quickly bring the pH in your mouth back to neutral.

Enamel Strength

The most stain resistant teeth not only have glossy smooth enamel.  They also have strong, hard enamel without defects from acid attacks.  Acid produces demineralization.  This softens and weakens the outer layer of enamel.  You can promote the health of enamel by using oral care products with remineralization potential.  These include mouthwash, toothpastes, and gels with the following important remineralizing ingredients.

More Teeth Whitening Questions?

Search our website and previous blog posts.  There is great information available about strengthening and whitening your teeth.  If you have a dental emergency, please call the office and follow the instructions to reach Dr. Ann.  She is on call and ready to care for all of our patients!